Is book shaming the new body shaming? by SJV
2018/04/25  |  By:   |  Features  |  

TV is so much better these days, right? In no particular order I’ve loved Happy Valley, Handmaid’s Tale, Doctor Foster, Marcella, Big Little Lies, Line of Duty, Sherlock, Taboo (still watch this on repeat when it’s a ‘herding cats’ kind of day), Luther, Fleabag, Unforgotten, People Just Do Nothing, The Good Fight, Catastrophe, Orange is the New Black, This is Us (also: why won’t Channel 4 tell us when Series 2 is going to be on??), Queer Eye and The Night Manager – and have declared loudly and vehemently that each is the best TV EVER to anyone who comes within touching distance, despite some frankly absurd and downright ridiculous endings to a couple of them – Marcella, I’m looking at you…..

I’m right, of course. Or wrong, depending on which side of the fence YOU happen to sit on.

I’ve never seen an episode of The Crown, Game of Thrones, Poldark, Doctor Who, Broadchurch or Stranger Things. But sure sure, you do you and I’ll keep on doing me.

And it’s the same for music (this is still on my commute shuffle playlist), film (Star Wars: The Last Jedi, meh), food (I’ll take fish fingers and peas over lobster thermidor and samphire every day of the week) fashion (athleisure… WHAT?) and, here’s my point, books.

What’s good for me isn’t gonna necessarily be good for you. You say potato, I say ready salted crisps.

There are a handful of genres that I genuinely couldn’t be more bleh about if I tried. I have to read some of them for work, cause you know, I’m in Sales, but they continue to leave me cold.

Literary. SciFi. Historical fiction. Autobiographies. MBS. I could go on, but my Boss might be reading this. One day maybe I’ll get into The Real Life Story of Space Zombies Wearing Crinoline Doing Yoga, but not today my friends, not today.  However, as I say, you do you, I’ll do me.  You say tomato, I say Bloody Mary.

What I love, and have always loved, is a book with family, friends and lovers. Community. I like a satisfyingly happy ending in the main, a bit of romance, some thrills, secrets, lies, a touch of mild peril even.  Keep me gripped, keep me laughing or crying or, better still, both. I like to be challenged.  I like beautifully written prose and feel-good stories.  I ache for great storytelling, believable characters and plot.  I’m a sucker for a well written sex scene and a touch of dual narrative.  To (sort of) plagiarize the words of Maureen Lipman, my book taste encompasses all these colours in all these sizes.

What I DON’T love, amongst other things, is the FOMO that comes with being a reader.  The ‘Oh, haven’t you read blah blah yet?’ The peer pressure to read the book EVERYONE is raving about.  The ‘if you loved X, you’ll love Y’.  The latest obsession with debut.  The reading challenges. And most of all, the being judged for reading the genre I love more than almost anything else in the world.

And the fear of being judged for what we love seems to be rising.  Every day I seem to hear that commercial mass market romantic comedy women’s fiction is dead, and uplit or griplit or lightlit is what I should be reading. Oh SHUT UP.

I may have jumped off the ‘Little Dentists Surgery at the Garden Centre in Great Yarmouth that serves a great Cuppa Chai and a French Fancy’ train about 72 copy-cat books ago, but listen, you enjoy that journey my friends.  As I say, you do you and I’ll keep doing me.  You say pajamas, I say onesie.

I might throw up if I see one more book jacket featuring a behind shot of a woman gazing wistfully to the horizon (and her future, apparently….) but if that kind of image rocks your world, just do it.

I can’t write jacket blurb for toffee, but I know I hate those ‘war tore them apart, can their broken hearts be healed by stroking kittens?’; ‘will they ever find true happiness at the bottom of a bottomless brunch?’; ‘his heart belonged to another, has she got the guts to murder the Other Woman?’ questions on the back of books but if YOU like them, go for it.

I might like sparse, clean, graphic lead, simple, stripped back, elegant, stylish jacket creatives.  But if you like flitter and glitter and busy and gloss and foil, who am I to argue?

So, what I suppose I’m trying to say is this.  Read what you love and to hell with it.  I won’t judge you.  And no one else has the right to judge you either.  Is book shaming the new body shaming?  Not on my watch my friends.